If you haven't been paying attention (or have been paying attention but are willfully ignoring the signs in the interest of self-confidence), David Stern's comments about the Sacramento Kings sale on Friday in Oakland are all about the announcement that the local bid by Mark Mastrov doesn't measure up. Stern said that the Sacramento group would need to improve its bid to be considered at an April 3 meeting of a small group of NBA owners. He said that the bid came in low.
But then Stern said some pretty remarkable things.
"In SAC we have a somewhat labored process that has been setup by Maloofs as to how we'd get into agmt w/ a SAC purchaser."— Aaron Bruski (@aaronbruski) March 9, 2013
"That process will ultimately be determined by the board, not by the Maloofs on how to assess that."— Aaron Bruski (@aaronbruski) March 9, 2013
In other words: the Maloofs are done f--king Sacramento.
The Maloofs have blocked access to the deal in Sacramento at every turn. A bankruptcy trustee selling a separate 7 percent stake in the team had to go to court to get a peek at the deal, and had to keep it sealed from public access in court databases. The Maloofs likely agreed to some strong restrictions on access to the agreement from the Seattle buyers to get their outrageous purchase price and the so-called nonrefundable $30 million up front. And the Seattle group, led by Chris Hansen, wanted those restrictions precisely to prevent Sacramento from summoning up a competitive offer and blocking the move.
The Maloofs set this up to ensure a sale to Hansen and a move to Seattle. And this is Stern's response to that gambit, via the Sacramento Bee:
"At the end of the day, it is for the board of governors to make the ultimate decision as to who the team will be sold to and where it will be located," he said. "I've spent a fair of number of years to establish that power and prerogative within the board of governors. If an ownership group has decided to exit our league, it doesn't retain the ultimate right to tell us where the team will be located. It is for the board of governors to decide."
In other words: f--k the Maloofs. To Hell with where they want the Kings to play next season.
(This is brilliant, by the way: it's an assertion of commissioner power masquerading as owner power. Stern just told his owners that they don't get to sell their teams to other cities, that the NBA -- its owners -- make that decision. Which means he makes that decision. This is the sort of thing Stern is just a master magician at spinning.)
As others have noted: Stern continues to draw a treasure map for the Sacramento group. Stern has seen the Hansen bid. Mastrov has not. So Stern told Mastrov and the world just under a month before the April 3 meeting that Sacramento needs to raise more money. (He met with Mastrov in Oakland, by the way, and quite possibly told him the amount by which the bid needs to increase.) The only question that remains is whether Stern is doing this because he wants to be able to recommend that owners vote to keep the Kings in Sacramento under new ownership, or if he wants to be able to say he gave Sacramento every opportunity to save its team should the owners decide to give it to Hansen. You can choose your own adventure on that one.
People in Seattle think they just won. People in Sacramento think they are on the path to victory. This isn't all that different from a basketball game, really. Each side has factors in its favor on paper. But there's a reason we play the game. And the ball tips, maybe for the last time in this series, on April 3.